I have an exam in 4 days. Right now, I should be studying. Obviously, I am not. I haven't really studied much. At least not as much as I would normally have done.
I have never been this unprepared for an exam before. Ever.
Somehow, it's quite a relief.
Letting go, caring less.
There has been some personal things going on in my life. I have had a hard time focusing on studying - and I've come to a point where my level of guilt-feeing is a lot smaller than it would have been a few years back. For me, that's actually quite a success.
Over the last year I've taught myself to care a little less. To live a little bit more. To slack a little more. At least in the areas of my life that are not the most important to me right now. Sometimes, 80% is good enough.
Perfectionism is good. Right?
The fact that I've always done everything 110% have resulted in lots of positive outcomes. I came out of high school with the second highest GPA at my entire school. I could get into any degree in the country if I wanted to. And I needed it for the degree I ended up applying to. I almost (that's an important word here!) qualified for the Olympics at the same time. I was social. Had good friends, managed to see my family as much as possible, had a great boyfriend. Travelled the world. Life was good.
To the outside world, I had everything under control. A lot of people complimented me for how much sh*t I could get done. How I always seemed to pull everything off.
But to me, there was no other option. I did not know how to do an assignment to 90% of my ability. If there was a training session on my schedule, I would do it. No matter how exhausted I was. If people expected something of me, I would do it. I was such a "pleaser". So afraid of letting people down, not living up to expectations - both from the outside world, but ESPECIALLY from myself.
I think this is a very, very common problem today. Especially among teenage girls. I think it's a very important issue to address.
For me, perfectionism was good because it made me achieve a lot of great things. But it also made me, at times, very unhappy. And it broke me down.
The thing with being perfectionist is that you try to do everything to the very best of your ability. And if you have a lot of things in your life, this really wears you down. You spend so much willpower being extremely disciplined. Day in, day out. Come home from a long day of training and school. Eat. Do that assignment (that gets an A). Go to bed too late, because B isn't good enough. Get up at 5 to train. Have school all day. Do more training. Do more assignments. Getting shit done day after day after day. Never a break. Never a "you know what, I'll come to class unprepared tomorrow." I think I can safely say this has never happened to me when I was in high school (different story now ;-) ).
If you do this for years and years, it just leaves you mentally broken. And the worst thing is, I felt like I had no choice. There was no way out. I couldn't train less - I wanted to go to the Olympics (yeah I know, more is not always better...). I couldn't study less, because everything less than an A was just not good enough.
It just WAS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
People told me to let go just a little bit. I listened and kept on doing my thing. Kept on getting As, kept on training hard. And I almost made it through with straight As and an olympic qualification. Almost. But I also left myself scarred for the years to come. Looking back, I never would have imagined how mentally broken it left me for a while to come.
Getting sh*t done
Another typical characteristic of perfectionists is the problem of getting things done. It's a bit of a paradox. On one hand, I got so much done. To the best of my ability. But other areas of my life started to fall completely apart. Small things. I would start being super messy at home. And if couldn't be 100% clean and nice, it might as well be 100% messy. Doing things partly is sometimes better than not doing them at all.
Blogging is yet another good example. I've written A LOT of blogs that I've never published. Because I thought they weren't good enough. They weren't PERFECT. i was afraid what people would think. So they never made it out.
Mostly, getting things done is better than not getting them done. Even if it's not to A+.
Letting go of expectations
From a very young age, I've put an immense amount of pressure on myself to do well. I'm not sure where it came from, but I always had high expectations for myself and believed the outside world had too. And if you always fall short of your expectations, life is hard. You're unhappy. Don't get me wrong here, high expectations can be good - it makes you commit that much more, work that much harder - but you also need to let go when things start to burn.
Live the way YOU want to and think you should, not how you think your parents, friends, or the society wants you to. Go 100% for your goals, but don't try to do EVERYTHING 110%. IT CANNOT BE DONE. Things will start to crack.
A happier me
Over the last few years I've slowly shifted my focus towards triathlon. Created some unbalance in my life. I haven't attended a lecture at university for a year (not recommended ;-)). I've studied much less than I would ever have done had I not committed to triathlon. But I've still got university stuff done. I've passed my exams, even managed quite a few As. It hasn't been to the standard I previously set for myself, but I've got the most important things done. I got all my training done to the best of my ability. But I've also learnt the hard way not to be a slave of a schedule, a program or of your own expectations to how things "should be".
I wouldn't say I've been extremely happy the last few months - dealing with yet another injury and some changes in my personal life, things have been turbulent. But I have definitely realized that letting go just slightly of my perfectionism has made me happier. Trying to care a little less, live a little more right now and worry a little less.
My coach would tell me I'm still a perfectionist at school. Maybe I am - to some degree - but now I realize it, and I realize when enough is enough. I know when things are important and when things are less important. I know what REALLY matters to me. I know I need to listen to myself.
It's a process. For me, this process is helped by sharing it with people, whether it's through talking or writing. You may want to read it, you may not. But here are my thoughts.
Have fun out there :-)
A journey is a distance travelled. A successful journey is one that takes a person to a higher place.
I have turned a new page and started a new journey in my life – and it has already brought me to a higher place. A happy place!
I am sitting in my small room in Poway, California, coffee by my side, gazing out the window with views of a clear blue sky and a green garden. A little more tanned, a little more fit than when I got here 6 weeks ago.
Temporarily calling the US my home is definitely not something I would have seen coming a year ago.
And then again, maybe I would.
There is no doubt that throwing myself out of my comfort zone and finding a new environment was an idea that started taking form a long time ago. I just didn't know whereabouts in the world.
You never know where life takes you. But you can definitely try to steer it in the way you want to go!
COMMITTING TO TRIATHLON
I am a girl who likes to seek opportunities. I want to know what's out there. That's why I like traveling. I want to try it all, see it all. People tell me: you're young! You have your whole life in front of you! Yes, I do. But I want to live it now.
Graduating high school I knew deep down that I was going to pursue triathlon. There was never a doubt in my mind. However, at the same time I felt a dozen strings pulling me in different directions. Should I take a bachelor degree in the UK? Australia? Getting the college experience in the US? Backpacking? Volunteering? Engage in politics? NGO?
I wanted it all. I still do. But I know that I can't do everything. And I know that if I want to follow this dream of excelling in triathlon - it's now. Deep down, it's also want I want the most.
And I can’t do it half way – that would not be fair to myself and to the people who invest in me.
The last year especially, international politics, environmental and cultural issues have filled a great deal in my mind. With the slightly crazy events happening world-wide these days - at least from my perspective - running around in my own little triathlon bubble trying to become quicker at moving my body from one place to another can sometimes seem a little off. A little meaningless in the bigger picture.
Trying to justify my decision, I realized that there was no need to.
If I find meaning in swim-bike-run all day, then why not? I cannot save the world by myself, but maybe by committing to a process that makes me very happy, I can become a better version of myself, inspire others through my endeavors in sport, and later in life contribute to the world outside of triathlon.
I have fallen for the lifestyle of triathlon. It's so simple, yet so fulfilling - and being able to combine that with part time studies in International Business and Politics (even though a small part of me sometimes wants to omit the "Business" part), is meaningful to me. it gives me friends for life, amazing memories and travel experiences. I also believe that sport is a strong voice in the world and that it can unite people - something that there is definitely a need for these days.
In the end, however, trying to become the best version of myself and seeing that development is ultimately what keeps the engine going.
THE 24-HOUR JOB
Most of all, committing to triathlon has meant committing to the everyday life of an athlete. That is the part I love the very most.
For many years of my life, like most people, I have woken up to the noise of my alarm clock. The very first thing that would run across my mind was the million things I needed to get done that day, the many places I needed to be, and the amount of bags I needed to carry along the way. This was very stressful at times.
Waking up now, I find myself at peace, being able to enjoy my breakfast while reading the news and chatting to my housemates. The day starts peacefully, and even though training might be hard, I still find myself at peace with my everyday life.
There are of course tough days where things don't go your way. You're tired, grumpy, frustrated. But mostly, all that noise in my mind isn't there. I am better at being here, right now. I have always had a habit of worrying a lot. I am getting better at it, slowly. And my everyday life now helps me do that. I'm living in a bit of a bubble.
However, life is still busy. I have plenty of studying to do, sponsor work, my writing role at pastaparty.dk, and not to forget all the cooking and eating that comes along with training a lot recovering well. And of course, mostly, training.
Being a professional triathlete is a 24-hour job. It’s so important to keep your body in balance in order to be able to handle a high training load. Everything you do affects your performance. I always knew this, but not until now have I really realized how much stress I was under previously, when I was trying to balance so many things in my life. Mostly because I was trying to be a million places throughout the day, but also the mental pressure I put on myself. It highly affected my recovery as an athlete. And I often felt I was doing things half way.
That's not the case anymore. I still have balance, which I find important (!), but I have committed fully to triathlon now by making this move.
INVESTING & BELIEVING
It is no secret that professional triathlon does not make you rich. Even the very best in our sport earn very little compared to many other professional athletes in e.g. soccer, tennis or golf.
Jumping on that plane some weeks back was not only a big personal and emotional investment for me, but also a huge financial investment. It would have been a much safer option for me to stay in my home environment. However, sometimes change is the only right decision. It's like starting a company. You have to invest before you start earning some profits :)
I am making this investment because I believe in myself.
Sometimes, that's not easy. The last race I did was in 2015. I've had some good results, but I haven’t been racing internationally for that long. It is easy to have doubts; to question whether that girl, who was good at triathlon, is still hiding somewhere inside.
I know she is. I believe that if I make the right decisions, fight through the hard times, enjoy the journey, think long term and I am patient, I will be able to be competitive at the highest level in triathlon. Otherwise, I would not be here. It’s no holiday, I can tell you that ;-)
In my opinion, the best careers in sport are those fought through life’s trials, through periods of unhappiness and devastation. You mature, you persevere – and you come out stronger. You make friendships, you share successes with the people who fought with you. All this is what makes the journey worthwhile.
Standing on that top step of the podium is what we’re all fighting for. It’s why we kill ourselves on 8x3 min hills on the bike like I did the other day. That’s why we endure the pain.
But in the end, it’s the lifestyle. Winning is only a small part of if. It’s seeing the development, and trying to better your best everyday. That’s why I committed. That is why I am currently training with a committed, world-class, hard-working group of athletes in California. A change of environment is sometimes a good thing. For me so far, it sure has been.
See you out there on the race course this summer. I don’t know when, I don't where. Yet.
But I will be there!